Thanks to the internet of things (IoT), smart homes filled with connected devices promise to make everyday living easier, more convenient and more comfortable. But what will they actually look like?
According to Future Technology 500, an online discussion forum for present, emerging and future technologies and inventions, the connected home will move beyond the gimmicky to become more useful.
Its predictions include that, in five to 10 years, homes could easily be generating their own power, based on thin-film solar technology, already developed, which is applied to windows to harness energy from the sun. Many could also distribute the excess power back to the grid for others to use.
The forum takes it as a given that future homes will use domestic robots to do chores such as cleaning and organising. Among the increasingly realistic robotics that can recognise and respond to human speech, Japanese investors have come up with one we could possibly do without: the Lazy Brother-in-Law robot who sleeps on your couch and drinks your beer, now in its fourth generation of development.
It predicts that smartphone apps, which interact with our homes, will increase exponentially over the next few years. Checking the contents of the fridge remotely – and ordering fresh supplies online – turning on the oven or starting the laundry will be a click away.
Movies and television will be more interactive, thanks to future augmented reality, virtual reality and mediated reality. If all this might cause information overload for some, forum contributors suggest future homes may include sensory deprivation chambers designed to promote sound sleep at night. Inventions designed to boost health and well-being will include new medical technologies “that will target your bodyusing personalised designer medication”.
At Hong Kong Science Park in Sha Tin, the future has arrived. The Smart Living@Science Park show flat might be very much a home of the future, but the inventions demonstrated have already been developed by Science Park partners. They include: Lighting systems that wake you up gently – an abacus-designed lampshade whose beads can be moved to adjust the shading; a wireless-charging LED lamp which has powered up your smartphone overnight; and the Philips Hue wireless lighting system, which lets you name your desired lighting colour – pink for sunrise, perhaps? – and it will obey.
Then head into a bathroom, which sets you up for the day. As you approach, an interactive PoE (power over ethernet) light panel will greet you, and displays real-time weather information direct from the Hong Kong Observatory. It reminds you about any pills you may need to take that morning.
As you ablute, the “magic mirror” will bring you up to speed on a range of data, including news reports, detailed weather tracking and energy consumption statistics. The electronic bidet gives you a warm place to sit – at the desired temperature; and even the bath towel is special: it’s made from an antibacterial textile used by the armed forces and in hospitals.
The augmented reality wardrobe saves you time deciding what to wear. Inside the closet it shows you what you’ll look like wearing items, so you can mix and match. The technology lets you try on clothes you don’t yet own, and order them online.
The technology enables you to make your morning coffee without turning on a tap. The Atmospheric Water Machine extracts moisture from Hong Kong’s humidity, and turns it into filtered, drinkable water.
Via the companion app, the user can connect with the home’s central server to monitor and control the machine in real-time. Also, set the Automated Refuse Collection System, which dispatches waste and recyclables from the home to a nearby refuse station. Together with a smart indoor air purification system which detects and filters out odours and tiny particles – and can be monitored and controlled remotely – you know you’ll arrive back to a hygienic home.
Play quickly with your virtual friend – an interactive, robotic pet dog which has abilities such as self-charging – and you can be out the door. You can begin your day safe in the knowledge that your home is secured by either a keycard system which recognises the faces of family members, or another which lets you communicate with a visitor when you’re not there, and let them in (should you choose) via an app.
Other technologies will help you keep tabs on your home in your absence – such as a smart refrigerator which responds to a mobile app to remotely control the temperature of the different compartments, keeping the food stored in them fresh and healthy for consumption.
Meanwhile, a wireless smart home system works away conducting real-time surveillance in the home; controls your lighting and air-con systems; and analyses power consumption.
The Smart Living@Science Park future home is open daily and entry is free.
This story was originally published in Home Essentials
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